Romantic relationships are a natural part of your teen’s life. These relationships can bring a lot of emotional ups and downs for your child, especially when they’re also going through physical, social and emotional changes. As parents, it can be hard to know when you should intervene and when to let your teen navigate the relationship on their own. It’s important to help guide your child on what a healthy relationship looks like, which can be done through leading by example or giving advice. Here are some things you can share with your child about what a healthy relationship should look like.
How Your Kids Should Be Feeling
It’s important that your child is feeling comfortable with the person they’re in a relationship with.
- They feel like they can be themselves around each other.
- They know it’s okay to have differing opinions.
- They know they can trust each other when they’re not together.
- They don’t feel pressured to do anything they don’t want to do.
If your child is feeling pressured by their significant other, whether it’s sexually or socially, it is time to intervene and provide active support for your teen.
When your teen is entering a new romantic relationship, it can be very exciting for them. Help them navigate when to set healthy boundaries.
- Your child may want to spend every waking moment with their partner, but it's important for them to still be their own person.
- Ensure your teen continues to think about what they like and what they need outside of their relationship.
- Having interests or hobbies that are just their own will help boost your teen’s self-esteem and confidence.
- Don’t let your child forget about their friends. Becoming too attached to a partner and dropping communications with friends usually isn’t done intentionally, but can be easy to do. Encourage them to find time for their friends.
- Help your child realize that making time for a social life with friends, family, or other hobbies and activities is just as important as making time for their partner.
Dealing with Conflict
Conflict isn’t always a bad thing in teen relationships. Good conflict can make the relationship grow and bring a couple closer together. It is important that your child doesn’t hide from problems that arise in a relationship. Admitting when something is wrong and practicing good communication skills by talking about and working to resolve the problem together is essential for a good relationship. It can seem intimidating at first, but practicing communication and conflict resolution skills as a teen will help them navigate all kinds of relationships later in life. If your child has a conflict or problem that seems difficult for them to navigate alone, guide them in using these communications tools:
- Begin by explaining how you feel and why. Try to be as specific as you can.
- Listen to what your partner has to say and try to be understanding.
- Avoid generalizations and be open-minded.
- Focus on the issue at hand without bringing up any arguments or disagreements from the past.
- Try not to be critical of what the other person is saying, and instead focus on things that are productive to help resolve the conflict.
Signs Of an Abusive Relationship
Even though conflict is normal in a relationship, it’s important to know when the relationship is going too far in the wrong direction and could become abusive. Some of the warning signs to share with and watch for in your kids include when a partner:
- is constantly being critical of you and making you feel bad.
- is trying to “own” you and keep you away from friends and family.
- wants to look through your phone to monitor messages or other communications.
- uses social media or other means to constantly track where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing.
- threatens that something bad will happen of you break up with them.
- forces you to do things you don’t want to do.
- makes you feel guilty.
- physically or verbally hurts you.
More Tips for Parents
Remember to keep strong and consistent communication with your teen. As children get older, it is less likely that they will want to confide in you. Make your best effort to be accessible and ready to listen without judgment.
Try to make hard conversations, like talking about relationships, as comfortable as possible. It can be difficult and awkward to talk about at first but try to hide any discomfort. If your teen sees that you are uncomfortable, it may discourage them from wanting to talk about relationship problems with you in the future.
Be supportive. It can be hard to find a good balance between being too involved and not involved enough, but you can always be encouraging and supportive of your child. Teens can be sensitive or defensive when it comes to parental criticism. Avoid coming across as judgmental when communicating with your teen. This could end up pushing them away. Showing support will help your teen navigate their relationships, romantic or otherwise, and will open the door for them to come to you when they need support.
Learn more about managing teen relationships: https://childmind.org/article/how-to-help-kids-have-good-romantic-relationships/